Pete Manca heads up Dell’s newly formed HPC and AI leadership group. As senior vice president of the integrated solutions engineering team, he is focused on custom design, technology alliances, high-performance computing, and datacenter workload solutions development. Manca previously served as vice president of software engineering at Hitachi and was president and CEO of cloud company Engera. He joined Dell’s executive team in 2018 and was responsible for converged and hyperconverged infrastructure business prior to being tapped to lead the new HPC and AI group in February. This interview was conducted by email at the beginning of April.
Congratulations on being named a 2021 HPCwire Person to Watch, and congrats on the promotion! How do you and other managers at Dell view 2020, taken as a whole?
Thank you. While COVID made 2020 a challenging year for all of us, we’ve seen the amazing impact HPC has made in the fight against this disease. The pivot to work from home drove a lot of demand for technology, and we expect hybrid work environments to be the new normal for many.
As you articulate your strategic roadmap, what are the top 3-5 things you want to accomplish in the next 12 months to hit your strategic roadmap or increase your market share presence?
We are going to focus in high-growth verticals at the intersection of AI and HPC such as healthcare and life sciences, financial services, and government research labs and defense. We are also investing in cloud — we see this as a big growth area for HPC and you will see a push from us to expand our presence in cloud.
Everyone’s talking about AI, machine learning and deep learning these days. What unique capabilities and advantages would you say Dell brings to organizations starting on their AI journeys? How do you differentiate yourselves from other systems providers competing for leadership in the AI market?
We have an extensive and sophisticated HPC & AI Innovation Lab where customers and partners can freely test applications and systems. It’s connected to our worldwide network of Customer Solution Centers with AI Experience Zones, and a network of HPC & AI Centers of Excellence so customers and partners can design, build and test systems and solutions for their specific environments and needs.
We have deep relationships and investments in/with the HPC/AI community, including AI-focused startups to partner and collaborate on the cutting edge of AI-optimized technologies and solutions.
All of these speak to our mission of democratizing, optimizing and advancing HPC and AI so together, we can accelerate time to discovery and innovation.
How does Dell view the exascale era and what is Dell’s role in it?
Exascale is coming and right now, it’s just specialty systems. There are many problems, simulation and data-driven, that will require exascale capabilities. The TACC Frontera and ENI HPC5 systems—both in the Top 10 in the world—show we care deeply about large-scale systems, and we focus on bringing the power of exascale to everyone. The Cambridge Open Exascale Lab (a collaboration with Dell Technologies and Intel) aims at doing just that – developing exascale technologies and making them more accessible.
Generally speaking, what trends and/or technologies in high-performance computing (and related fields, such as AI) do you see as particularly relevant for the next five years?
We’ll see continued growth of optimized CPUs and accelerators as people try to squeeze in even more total performance, performance per watt, and performance per dollar. Driven by a thirst for more compute power for AI, simulation, and analytics, we’re seeing a lot of investment in silicon.
As everyone’s trying to get more and more performance out of the hardware, we’ll also see more direct liquid cooling. The constant thirst for computational power requires more electric power and generates more heat resulting in the need for more liquid cooling. It will become more mainstream, and we already offer liquid-cooled servers, racks and modular datacenters.
We expect to see more optimization through software-defined configurations, composability that includes more virtualization and containers, and even some hardware composability, e.g., from Gen-Z and SmartNICs.
More will embrace hybrid cloud and as-a-service models, where on-premises remains fundamental, but augmented services can provide additional flexibility to meet demand. Project APEX is our strategy for delivering a radically simplified as-a-service and cloud experience to our customers and partners. This spans PCs and IT infrastructure and it’s all from one trusted partner—unmatched in the industry.
Outside the professional sphere, what activities, hobbies or travel destinations do you enjoy in your free time?
I’m an avid boater and golfer. I also love to travel and have a lot of favorite destinations including Japan.
Manca is one of 14 HPCwire People to Watch for 2021. You can read the interviews with the other honorees at this link.